Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Barrier of The Mind

I don’t know how to explain the feeling I get when I cross a finish line. In the moments before, I can see all of my training flashing before my eyes; remember each pain and sacrifice that went into that singular instant of victory. Foot strike after foot strike, eyes forward, motion forward. When it gets tough, I remind myself: “This is the only place you have to be right now. A runner is all you have to be right now.”

I find my rhythm; this soul deep heart beat between the road and my feet. We are all that exist as the world fades. Running is my favorite place to be; a simple, safe place.

No matter the distance, when the finish line is in sight, when the run ends, it always seems like it has come so quickly. There is excitement, and a little bit of mourning because on the other side, the race is complete. There is always another race, but they are never the same. Every race has its own set of obstacles and distractions to overcome, so each victory is, sweetly, different.

Today, I was given a gift: I got to watch the joy eek up the face of fellow runners as they raised their fists in triumph and, one foot after another, let their struggle and fears fall away. I didn't get to run, but I had so much fun cheering the runners on as they rounded the 12.5 mile mark. To see another overcome, to see a person do something they didn't believe they could do and to see sheer glee take over their face when they realize they have done it – it just might be the only thing in this world that’s better than crossing the finish line myself. How very cool that I got to be a part of that, a part of their race, today. My favorite moment was seeing my friend come speeding down the chute, with a big FAT grin of a face, and hearing her daughter, usually so shy, shouting out, “MOMMY!” and giving her momma a high-five. I am so very proud of her! 

So many things in this life will try and distract us from the finish line: Money, people, cancer, fire, anger, change, hate, rejection. The only way to stay focused, the only way to make it to the finish line, in a race or in life, is with each other. Some days you may be the one running, hitting your stride, and others you might be the voice shouting over the noise, “You’re almost there! Looking good! Finish strong!” The success of these runners, of my friend, was my success; their joy was mine, too.

I’ve never really known how to answer someone when they ask me why I run. It’s kind of a crazy thing to get into, admittedly, and no answer has ever felt complete enough to bother sharing. But, today helped me understand why a little better: Running breeds community.

Even though it’s considered an individual sport, it’s bigger than any one runner or any specific race. It’s a lifestyle, a culture, a belonging: We need each other to make it. The road to the finish is strewn with well wishers and encouragement if you’ll listen for them. Screaming and clapping and smiling for hours are the least we can do for our community, when it’s our turn. We are all runners in one sense or another and a runner is all you have to be to belong – it’s enough. We journey together, even if it appears separate. You may find this terribly idealistic, but I believe it to my core. Distance is an illusion; a barrier of the mind.

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